Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Green and Bear it

Green Mountain and Bear Peak are the two most prominent peaks immediately west of Boulder and home to the Flatirons. I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather yesterday and head out for a long hike after work. I headed up to NCAR after leaving the CU campus and hit the trail at 5:25 with the intention of summitting Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and South Boulder Peak in one long hike. I set out with a goal of finishing in 3 hours and running as much as I could manage.

Yesterday's beautiful weather, Bear Peak on the far left and Green Mtn in the center

The jog from NCAR to Bear Canyon went quickly and I headed up Bear Canyon to the Green-Bear trail junction. The three days of rain we got last weekend had turned the usually small stream in the canyon into a raging torrent slightly larger stream which sounded a lot bigger than it was. Also, I never noticed how much most of this trail looks like a recently wet stream bed until I got to the part which was a currently wet stream bed. As you climb higher up the canyon the trail starts to wind through some small aspen groves and crosses back and forth over the stream several times. I was able to rock hop over all these crossings except for one without trouble. The one crossing I couldn't make on dry rocks resulted in a wet right foot and a new found disappointment in the water draining efficacy of my trail runners.

My Route

I finally hit the Green-Bear trail junction and headed north up the hill towards the west ridge of Green Mountain. There's a fairly significant amount of vertical gain here (nearly 1000ft) and the thought of losing all that altitude on my way back toward Bear Peak was a bit depressing. After what felt like a long time, I hit the west ridge trail, stopped to eat some Gu and finished the last bit to the summit by 6:45 (3.8 miles). At this point I thought I still had a chance to hit my goal of 3 hours if I could make it to S Boulder Peak in an hour and get back down to NCAR in 40 minutes. After taking a few minutes to empty the sand/pebbles from my shoes delay the inevitable descent, I headed back down the Green-Bear trail and then up toward Bear Peak. This is definitely my favorite stretch of trail in the Boulder area and I didn't see a single person after leaving the Green Mtn summit until I was on the saddle between Bear and S Boulder Peaks, about 3 miles of perfect trails. The last push toward the summit of Bear Peak gets really steap, but it's an easy jog over to S Boulder peak from there. I hit the S Boulder Peak summit at 7:55 (7.1 miles), ate some more Gu and decided I wasn't going to make the 3 hour goal since I was pretty exhausted, 3.5 miles from NCAR and only 1/2 hour to go.

To descend, I hiked back over to Bear Peak and went down Fern Canyon. It's been about a year since I was on this trail and I had forgotten just how steep it is. It's by far the steepest trail in the Boulder area and my ears were popping the whole way down. On the way down I caught my toe on a rock and nearly took a face plant three separate times. I guess that's what happens when you start getting really exhausted and loose focus. I ran a lot of the downhill where it wasn't too steep, but finally ran out of gas and had to walk the last mile back to NCAR. I arrived at 8:53, totally exhausted, but still feeling better than after my last long hike. I ate enough and drank plenty of water (almost 72 oz.), but my legs just ran out of fuel near the end. Nothing some food, a couple beers and a dip in the hot tub wouldn't fix.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the hike. Great views, perfect temps near 70 deg., no crowds and a nice evening in the mountains. This route has a pretty punishing amount of vertical and I'm happy with my time even though I didn't make the 3 hour goal. The stats: 3h 28min, 10.6 miles, ~4600ft elevation gain.


  1. I don't know why you still insist on calling this hiking. Cut the false advertising and call it what it is; running up, across, and down mountains.

    I enjoy your witty cross outs and comments. Keep up the good work.

  2. While technically the actual running was mostly limited to the 'across' and 'down' parts, I agree this was misleading to my readers. I apologize to all 5 of you.

  3. I think I speak for all of us when I say "apology accepted."